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Regional Program Nordic Countries

Security in the European Arctic

For the five Nordic countries security in the arctic is, now more than ever, of utmost importance. Due to the developments of the past years the aspect of security has become more intertwined, not just with military considerations, but also with socio-, economical- and political aspects. While this interlinkage requires a new perspective on some long-standing believes, the most prominent topics concerning security are Russia´s military build-up in the North, as well as no-arctic nations, such as China and India, who are increasingly influencing the regional governance structures. Finland’s and Sweden’s accession into NATO has contributed to the change in the regional power dynamics. The regional program Nordic Countries strives to actively develop and shape the dialog around the security in the arctic, by means of hosting roundtables, as well as breakout sessions, podium discussions and event series with partner organizations. Additionally we fund the publications of scientific studies and surveys.


Title: Digitalization as an opportunity for development

Status of the digitalization of the Mongolian administration

Volker Wissing, German Federal Minister for Digital Affairs and Transport (BMDV), visited Mongolia in early March 2024. It is noteworthy that Mr. Wissing is the first minister to prioritize digital over transport in his name. Although BMDV is not responsible for digitalization in Mongolia, the minister's trip presents an excellent opportunity to explore the topic of Mongolian administrative digitalization. Readers can decide for themselves whether the German administration has become "more digital and consistently citizen-oriented" since the government coalition took office.


Biden and Trump: Unpopular and Unavoidable

The Trend of the U.S. Primaries Continues on “Super Tuesday”

The “Super Tuesday” of the U.S. primary elections is over: Party members and supporters in 16 states and one territory decided on their parties’ candidates for the presidential election. President Joe Biden and Donald Trump still have a good chance of becoming their parties’ candidates. But both have to deal with criticism from within the party - and poor poll ratings.

Adobe Stock / boreala

Representation and reform

Inside Africa’s pursuit of a stronger global voice

Africa has significantly gained importance as a player in the global arena. Meanwhile, African political leaders are grappling with diverging ideas about how this growing importance can translate into actual influence. The author Ueli Staeger examines the different approaches that are being pursued and takes a closer look at the role of the African Union in this regard.

IMAGO / Manfred Segerer

Escalation in the Red Sea

The military dimension, the deployment of the Bundeswehr and the calculus of regional players

The deployment of the frigate Hessen to the Red Sea was described in advance as the most dangerous deployment of the German navy in the history of the Bundeswehr and is aimed at protecting funda-mental national interests. This naval mission fundamentally challenges central assumptions and plans of Germany’s defence policy of the past two decades. A return of the Bundeswehr to East Africa was long considered just as unlikely as an air defence scenario against a non-state armed group. Now the Yemeni Houthi militia is confronting the US naval forces with a primarily Iranian arsenal of weapons that is clearly superior in quality to that of many other non-state armed groups. While in terms of de-fence policy, Europe is almost completely tied down along NATO's eastern flank, it is becoming appar-ent that the conflict-ridden region around the Red Sea could pose an additional security challenge in the long term and require additional commitment and resources. After all, the maritime trade route between the Suez Canal and Bab al-Mandab and access to the Indo-Pacific region are of key economic and security importance for Germany and Europe.


Franco-German tensions and European pressure to act

Ukraine conference in Paris

On February 27, 2024, President Macron invited 20 heads of state and government, including 15 representatives of the EU member states as well as the UK, the USA and Canada, to a conference on Ukraine in Paris at very short notice. This took place under the impression of the extremely difficult situation on the Ukrainian front and the possible discontinuation of military aid from the USA to Ukraine. At the press conference for the meeting, Macron polarized with a statement on the possible deployment of ground troops in Ukraine, which was met with fierce criticism, particularly in Germany. He also sent several pointed remarks in the direction of German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, which reinforced the impression that tensions in Franco-German relations are currently immense, particularly in view of the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine. France itself is under pressure to act. The government has repeatedly denied the figures from the Kiel Institute for the World Economy, according to which France is one of the worst performers in the European context in terms of military aid to Ukraine (see info panel). Macron, who attempted to maintain a dialogue with Vladimir Putin as the driving European force at the beginning of the invasion in 2022, now wants to become the geopolitical leader in Europe again. Whether he will succeed in this seems rather uncertain. The European partners immediately distanced themselves clearly from the scenario of a troop deployment in Ukraine. The French president may also have led himself up the garden path domestically. The opposition described Macron's proposal as risky and ill-considered. The right-wing populist camp in France in particular is likely to exploit the president's geopolitical move in order to use it against him in the upcoming European elections.


Elections as a “special operation”

With Lukashenka’s “single voting day” only a coup by the democratic forces is surprising

On February 25, 2024, the “single voting day” for the national parliament and local councils took place in Belarus. This was likely the least free election in the history of the nation. Politically sterile, with no opposition on the ballot or in the election commissions, Lukashenka is ushering in a process that the democratic opposition calls a “special operation.” Strictly guarded by a massive contingent of his repressive apparatus, the system is now to be restructured in the spring with a new super-committee in order to secure his authoritarian rule and personal power. From his point of view, the people are above all a threat following the peaceful pro-democratic mass protests of 2020. An action led by democratic forces produced a surprise on the eve of “Election Day.”


Fico pushes through controversial criminal law reform - and thus unites the opposition

The fight for the rule of law characterises the first months of the legislative period. Presidential elections in March will also be essential for the country's further development.

Although the result of the parliamentary elections in Sept. 2023 also allowed for other constellations, SMER-SD formed the government for the fourth time with Robert Fico at the lead. Coalition partners are Peter Pellegrini's HLAS-SD and Andrej Danko's National Party SNS.

One of the first things the Fico government did was to abolish the special anti-corruption prosecutor's office and shorten the statute of limitations and prison sentences in a shortened legislative procedure. Experts warned, the opposition held firm against this, as coalition MPs and former SMER-SD ministers would also benefit directly from this. Tens of thousands of people demonstrated across the country week after week - a testament to how divided the country is and a sign of how tough the upcoming election campaign for the direct presidential elections in March will be. In the run-off, the Social Democrat Pellegrini is expected to face off against the civic candidate and former foreign minister Ivan Korčok.

In terms of foreign policy, Fico is still using harsh rhetoric against Ukraine, but he is not blocking the EU's joint decisions in this regard. Commercial arms exports as well as humanitarian and technical support for Ukraine will continue under Fico, but bilateral military aid will not.


The Human Rights Situation in Belarus on the Eve of the “Single Voting Day”

The repressive system in Belarus today is no less brutal than in Putin's Russia

Just days after the breaking news of Alexei Navalny's death made global headlines, Belarusian independent media reported another tragedy that is similar in character but will likely cause much less attention. The political prisoner Ihar Lednik died in a hospital in Minsk after he had been incarcerated despite a known heart condition. He had been accused of “slandering Lukashenka” in a publication that demanded the dissolution of the Union State with Russia. This underlines yet again that the repressive system in today’s Belarus is not less brutal than in Putin’s Russia. Since 2020, at least five political prisoners have died in Belarus, four of them within the last nine months. Since last spring, at least six political prisoners, among them the most prominent leaders of the 2020 democratic protest, have “disappeared”. Former inmates and relatives describe the conditions in the penal colonies as “creeping death” and the UN sees signs of “crimes against humanity”. Since the repressions aim to secure Lukashenka’s rule beyond “elections”, this report is to give an overview of the human rights situation in Belarus on the eve of the “single voting day” on February 25, 2024.


Senegal's democracy passes the stress test

The Constitutional Council has repealed Macky Salls' decree of 03.02.24 annulling the elections

There was much commotion in the country after President Macky Sall canceled the election date set for 25.02.2024 just a few hours before the start of the campaign. Senegalese civil society and the international community reacted with bewilderment and interpreted the annulment as an attempt by Macky Sall to extend his mandate indefinitely. Now, in a historic decision, the Constitutional Council has annulled the presidential decree.

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